26 March 2011
The campaign by Downshall Centre users forced a hurried change to the agenda at Tueday night’s cabinet meeting. Various caveats were added to the recommendation for a “Free School” to replace the Downshall Centre. But the decision was still taken “in principle” to sell the centre to E-Act, a national organisation wishing to set up a school in Ilford & voluntary groups were left no clearer about their future.
The caveats were included to ensure that the council discharges its legal obligations, particularly in respect of Equalities legislation. Cllr Keith Prince, Leader of the Conservative & Liberal Democrat coalition running Redbridge, issued an apology to voluntary organisations & users of the Downshall Centre for the way things had been handled by his colleague, Cllr Alan Weinberg, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services.
The public gallery was packed for the meeting, which had to be held in the council chamber to accommodate everyone. Even so, despite chaotic arrangement meaning that entry for the public was delayed, some young people, who had to taken the trouble to register their intent to speak & prepare a speech, were denied access to the meeting because they arrived a few minutes after the scheduled start of the meeting.
This week council officers have arranged a “consultation” meeting after the event. The groups which use the Centre in the evenings have been told that they can continue to do so once the school opens. A spokesperson for the Afasic Group pointed out that they currently have use of some the resources that the Youth Service. They point out that, for instance, furniture suitable for primary school children will not be appropriate for their members.
During the week it also became clear that this decision has been taken with those doing so unaware that 19 organisations with service level agreements to provide services on behalf of the council either base themselves at Downshall or run activities there.